Big drop in ACT exams as MN colleges go test-optional during pandemic

Just 60 percent of Minnesota’s 2021 high school graduates took the ACT exam as many college admissions offices waived test requirements because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The average composite score for the class was 21.6, up from 21.3 the year before, according to numbers released Wednesday by the testing nonprofit. Average scores typically rise when participation drops.

“The results for those who took the test are promising, but work remains to close gaps. We must continue to find ways to ensure all of our students are engaged and supported as they prepare for life beyond high school, whether that is in a career or in college,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Heather Mueller said in a news release.

Virtually every Minnesota student graduating between 2016 and 2018 took the ACT because the state required schools to offer the test during the school day. Since that stopped, participation had fallen as low as 92 percent with the class of 2020.

The arrival of the coronavirus in March 2020 made it difficult for many high school juniors to schedule their college-admissions exams.

Within months, the University of Minnesota announced that applicants to its fall 2021 freshman class would not have to submit an ACT or SAT score.

Some other schools have made the permanent shift to test-optional admissions, including the University of St. Thomas, which did so in February 2020, and Macalester College, in April 2020.

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